Zachary Taylor Blood, 33, arrived at a Border Patrol checkpoint near the US-Mexico border with an American flag-draped coffin in the back of his van Oct. 26. When asked what he had, he replied, "Dead guy, Navy guy." The agent, who is a military veteran, got suspicious, however, upon seeing the coffin was "rusty and dented" with the flag "crudely taped" onto it with packing tape, according to a criminal complaint cited by the New York Times and ABC 13. Another agent, also a veteran, agreed "this was not standard protocol for funeral procession of a military veteran," the complaint says. A search followed, and two (live) men were found inside the coffin.
Both admitted they were in the US illegally, the complaint says. One said he agreed to pay a smuggler $6,000 to be transported to San Antonio with his cousin, and that they found it difficult to breathe and hot inside the coffin. Blood, a Texas resident, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempting to smuggle the two Mexican men into the US. "I have never encountered this method to smuggle aliens in the past," says a lawyer representing Blood. Blood faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of as much as $250,000; he will be sentenced May 11. (Read more smuggling stories.)